Lee White, once White House counsel to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson, regaled a packed room yesterday at Politics and Prose, the Northwest D.C. bookstore.
White, 84, has just come out with his memoirs, Government for the People, which covers his life and work in Washington, starting with Kennedy in the 1950s. Johnson appointed White chair of the Federal Power Commission, where he worked from 1966 to 1969. Today, he’s of counsel at Spiegel & McDiarmid.
White (who also happens to be the father of Legal Times’ proofreader Murray White) was modest about his achievements: “I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. Being in the right place meant briefing the press on the afternoon of the Kennedy assassination and being the go-to guy in the White House for groundbreaking civil rights legislation.
Of Kennedy, he said: “He was an extraordinarily quick fellow” whose press conferences were “almost works of art.” Johnson, he said, was “very shrewd, with a tremendous memory” but also “a little bit mean, a little bit vindictive, a little bit ornery.”
And just before White resigned from the Federal Power Commission, he had a long chat with President Richard Nixon. “Aren’t there any Republican guys like you?” Nixon asked him. “I’m sure there are,” White responded. “I just haven’t met any yet.”